Emily and her Wardrobe (Material Memory)

Year: 1950s

Origin: Lancaster

Donated By: Lucy McElroy

When I was six my mum gave me her doll, I was struggling with  confidence, and she gave her to me as a reward for being brave. I called her Emily, loved her very much and thought she was so beautiful. Over the weeks, she gave me Emily’s clothes as rewards for trying hard. She would lay out an item on her bed and I can remember the exciting anticipation to see what was waiting for me.  

Emily has a beautiful wardrobe, all handmade in the 1950s by my great grandmother and her sister, Auntie Nip. The fabric would have been scraps, probably left over from clothes they made or from  household objects like old pillowcases. There are different cottons, beautiful fine silks, and synthetic fabrics which feel very much of their time. You can certainly see love in these little doll’s clothes, such care and so many sweet details.  

These two women taught my mum many handcrafts, inspiring her love of making. I never met my great grandmother or Auntie Nip, but my mum passed on the skills and the joy of making to me. These little clothes mean so much to me, they hold many childhood memories and are a link to the women in my past whose love and skills have enriched my life.  

When I had a daughter of my own, I gave her one of my favourite dolls and made clothes using patterns taken from Emily’s wardrobe. These are some of the things she turns to when looking for comfort and, to my great joy, she too is now learning to sew.

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